A friend, pastor of an evangelical church in Baclaran, ParaÃ±aque, Metro Manila, received a comment on his blog from a devotee of the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran. The comment has echoes of the evangelical mindset of big numbers and budgets as indicators of success and God’s blessing. Below is my reply to the comment.
Comment by Sofia:
The Baclaran Phenomenon is, first and foremost, the incredible number of people who come to the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran every Wednesday to make the Perpetual Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It is estimated that at least 100,000 devotees come on regular Wednesdays, reaching about 120,000 on the First Wednesday of each month. The biggest turnout of the year is on Ash Wednesday. The crowd for that day simply defies estimate.
Sofia, big numbers is the worst indicator of God’s blessing. Were the Israelites the biggest nation during their time? No, they were almost always outnumbered by pagan nations around them (Deut 7:7). Were the believers in the early church the majority? Of course not!
Jesus himself said,
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matt 7:13-14).
Just because a person says he/she believes in God or does signs and wonders means that he/she is a true believer. Jesus says there will be multitudes on Judgment Day who think they are Christians because of good works, but they would instead be sent to hell (Matt 7:21-23):
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
What matters to Christ is true faith in his true Gospel. Is faith in Mary the true Gospel? God forbid! Is the veneration of “sinless” Mary anywhere mentioned in the Bible? Is Ash Wednesday ceremony commanded anywhere in the Bible? You can search the Bible with a fine-toothed comb for eternity and never find even an iota of this Roman invention.
The Bible says that God alone is our help, not the Mother of Perpetual Help or any other human being or creature:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psa 46:1)
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psa 124:8).
Moreover, Redemptorists teach that Mary intercedes for believers. But nothing can be further from Biblical truth, which teaches that Christ alone is our Redeemer and Mediator through his death on the cross for sins of his people:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (Heb 9:15).
What is the true Gospel? The true Gospel consists of justification by grace ALONE through faith ALONE in Christ ALONE to the glory of God ALONE, all of which can be found in Scripture ALONE. Performing all kinds of ceremonies and good works will never save anyone. If works can save, then all devout Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Iglesia Ni Manalo, Oneness Pentecostals, Word-Faith followers, and even pagans would go to heaven.
All our sacrifices are meaningless without true faith that is accompanied by obedient lives, as Samuel told King Saul after the king usurped Samuelâ€™s priestly responsibility by offering a sacrifice, â€œHas the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of ramsâ€ (1 Sam 15:22).
This means that among all those 120,000 who are idolaters, murderers, sexually immoral, thieves, liars, wife-beaters, drunkards and drug addicts who perform the Ash Wednesday rite without true contrition–repentance and TURNING AWAY from sin–will still go to hell. In this condition, their novenas, vows, Hail Marys, Good Fridays, and all other rites are abominations before a holy God.